from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of numerous usually small arthropod animals of the class Insecta, having an adult stage characterized by three pairs of legs and a body segmented into head, thorax, and abdomen and usually having two pairs of wings. Insects include the flies, crickets, mosquitoes, beetles, butterflies, and bees.
  • n. Any of various similar arthropod animals, such as spiders, centipedes, or ticks. See Regional Note at lightning bug.
  • n. An insignificant or contemptible person.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An arthropod in the class Insecta, characterized by six legs, up to four wings, and a chitinous exoskeleton.
  • n. Any small arthropod similar to an insect including spiders, centipedes, millipedes, etc
  • n. A contemptible or powerless person.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to an insect or insects.
  • adj. Like an insect; small; mean; ephemeral.
  • n. One of the Insecta; esp., one of the Hexapoda. See insecta.
  • n. Any air-breathing arthropod, as a spider or scorpion.
  • n. Any small crustacean. In a wider sense, the word is often loosely applied to various small invertebrates.
  • n. Fig.: Any small, trivial, or contemptible person or thing.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small, usually winged and many-legged, invertebrate creature whose body appears to consist of several segments: a term used in popular speech without exactitude, being applied not only to flies, fleas, dragon-flies, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, beetles, bugs, lice, and other familiar creatures properly called insects, but also, improperly, to other small creatures whose structure and relations are not popularly understood, as the so-called coral insect, which is an actinozoan.
  • n. In zoology, any member of the class or other division of animals called Insecta; an arthropod; a condylopod; an articulated animal with articulated legs, especially one with six such legs; a hexapod. See Insecta and Hexapoda, 1.
  • Of, pertaining to, or of the nature of an insect or insects: as, insect transformations; insect architecture.
  • Like an insect in any respect; small; mean; contemptible.
  • To seek or catch insects, as a bird does.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. small air-breathing arthropod
  • n. a person who has a nasty or unethical character undeserving of respect


Latin īnsectum, from neuter past participle of īnsecāre, to cut up (translation of Greek entomon, segmented, cut up, insect) : in-, in; see in-2 + secāre, to cut; see sek- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin insectum ("with a notched or divided body, cut up"), from perfect passive partciple of insecō ("I cut up"), from in- + secō ("I cut"), from the notion that the insect's body is "cut into" three sections. Calque of Ancient Greek ἔντομον ("insect"), from ἔντομος ("cut into pieces"). (Wiktionary)


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